Monday, 7 July 2008: 1:55 PM
Learning Objective 1: articulate the consequences related to separation of Arican American adolescents from their biological families to foster care
Learning Objective 2: describe the adverse perceptions of mental health diagnoses and treatments of African American adolescents in foster care
The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study is to explore the lived mental health experiences of African American adolescents in foster care. African American adolescents are disproportionately represented among adolescents living in foster care. Compared with the general population of adolescents in and out of foster care, African American adolescents have significantly more mental health problems and manifest a greater range of mental disorders, causing serious problems for the child welfare system. The adolescents manifest appalling outcomes when transitioned from foster care. Yet, few studies of the mental health problems of African American adolescents have been undertaken. An adaptation of Leininger's Sunrise Model with a focus on Cultural and Social Structure Dimensions was used to guide this study. A semi-structured face-to-face interview was conducted with nine (n=9) African American adolescents in foster care 15-17 years of age, 3 females and 6 males. All the participants experienced multiple placements; the mean number of placements is 6.8. All but one of the participants have a diagnosed mental disorder. The findings suggest the mental health problems of all the participants are significant and are associated with the antecedent issues of theier biological families. Their problems are exacerbated with the separation from their biological families to foster care. Three general themes emerge from the data: 1) Antecedents related to separation from biological families to foster care, 2) Consequences related to separation from biological families to foster care, and 3) Adverse perceptions of mental health diagnoses and treatments. Additional study and focus are needed to identify better interventions and support for adolescents when separation is deemed necessary and to determine alternate means of dealing with child abuse and neglect other than separation of children and adolescents from their biological families.